I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.Susan Sontag
After an awesome start to our safari at Pantanal (Read more), it was time for another exhilarating day with another Boat Safari in the Jaguar county. As with every other wilderness trip, I was up early and headed out alone with my camera to explore what lay beyond the lodge grounds. As with any other morning here, this was another beautiful one with the Macaws, Parakeets and Chachalaca setting the morning tune.
After an early breakfast, this time we headed straight to the river. We had an Italian couple and Lena accompanying us. Just as we left, we spotted a lone Crab eating Fox wandering on the road ahead of us – we stopped and watched it come straight towards our van and then disappear in the bushes. Also peering in the distance, was the dangerous Buffalo of the Pantanal. What a brilliant start for the day – a perfectly good omen.
After an hour of scenic drive, we arrived at our boat and after loading the supplies, we started our second day on the river. One needs to be well prepared while arriving at Pantanal – Read some general tips on what to pack for and expect in Pantanal – Read more.
For some reason, the river and its banks looked very quiet today. Couldn’t spot many Caimans, very few birds, no Otters and few Capybaras – Was this a bad sign or signs of something big happening today?
We head straight to the spot where we saw the Jaguar on the previous day (Read more) and to our surprise a Jaguar was still sleeping under the same tree! Was this the same Jaguar? Was it so lazy that it never moved? Well the Jaguar had different plans for us today – it wasn’t the same male we had seen the day before. This was a female one and seemed more active.
We were sitting in our boat on the opposite bank shore with a small patch of swamp land connecting both the banks and the Jaguar was right in front of us probably 30 mts ahead. Just then, the Jaguar wakes up and moves behind the trees disappearing again, but quickly re-emerges on the small strip of swamp land connecting both the banks. This has a very thick foliage so it’s very hard to spot its movements except for some glimpses here and there and guessing its movement’s based on the grass shaking. Seemed like it was trying to hunt a Caiman, spurting in jumps trying to land a meal.
And then it disappeared again. I was standing at the very front of boat trying to get a better view from some height but the foliage was a very good camouflage for the Jaguar. Just then we heard some leaves rustle on the bank very next to us – stuck my neck up to see what it is – couldn’t see anything but did give those initial goose bumps. Ignored it as it could have been just another bird! I continued to stare at the foliage ahead of me when Amoli gave a shriek – “Its here, Its here – right next to you!! Sit down you can see it below the tree”. I bent down and there it was — The majestic Jaguar right on our bank and coming straight towards us.
It now walked right towards us and had its eyes fixated on me. This was the moment which sent shivers down our spines as it was bending low gazing at us from the heights of the river bank. One pounce and it would be right in our boat. However, my experience with these cats and constant fixation to Nat Geo and Discovery Channels said that this wasn’t an attack mode and it was just gauging the threat. We all stood up on the boat, it’s a good technique to appear Big in front of any wild animal and not do sudden movements. Finally, the Jag seemed relaxed and to our uttermost surprise it sat right in front of us!!! So we were the only boat on the river and we had a Jaguar all to ourselves 5 meters ahead of us on the banks. A dream come true!
After the initial jitters, Amoli mustered up the courage and walked up to the front to see this amazing animal. It just sat there looking at us, licking its paws and staring into our eyes. What a moment – I couldn’t ask for anything more. After a mock charge from a Tiger in India, surrounded by Lions in Serengeti, I now had a Jaguar gazing at me just 5 mts in front of me — Must be lady luck!
Just then another boat arrives with a more thrilling story – there is another Jaguar walking on the same bank and towards our Jaguar. Wowwww! So was this going to be a fight or mating scene for me to capture. Just then the second Jaguar emerges from the nearby bushes, drinks some water and rests on the low banks – 50 mts away from the first one.
Finally, they meet and it turns out they are sisters – a possibility I didn’t think of initially. And then starts the playful moments between these 2 sisters walking on the banks of the rivers, jumping on each other – absolute childfullness. And then both of the Jaguars disappear from the banks and all the boats which had emerged by now disappear. Cat spotting is a patient game and not for everyone. Really disappoints me when people expect to see these Felines at every turn and corner! And when one shows up they just click a photo and ask for what next — Disgusts me!!
We had a quick lunch at the nearby shade reflecting on what a moment it was. I wasn’t actually hungry as I was bursting with joy and overdrive on energy level at the moment. After a nice lunch we head further down the river and guess what, both the Jaguars are back and resting on the bank ahead of us. This is why they say spotting these elusive cats is a game of patience.
We then get our local fishing rods made of bamboo out and decide to do some Piranha fishing for dinner that day. These deadly fishes have one of the most powerful bites in the wild world and can devour an animal in minutes. Fishing for Piranhas with 2 Jaguars resting on the banks meters behind you is a thrilling experience. Fishing has been one of my favorite hobbies since childhood and another such activity in which the restless me is in absolute patience and can spend hours without getting distracted.
The bait was buffalo meat and I ended up catching 5 Piranhas for dinner that day – however couldn’t get the fish off the bait coz of its razor sharp teeth and Eduardo our guide did those honours.
The Jaguars finally left the banks and moved ahead where a pack of buffalos arrived and it was no longer safe for us to follow the Jaguars as just the previous day a buffalo had charged at one of the boats and these are known to be aggressive and dangerous animals. So we bid adieu to the Jaguars for a wonderful up close and personal encounter, and head back as the sun would soon set.
On our way back, we spotted the Golden and Black Howler Monkeys on a tree near the banks – great spotting skills by our guide Eduardo. The pre-hensile tail of the howler monkeys is strong and acts as a fifth limb, allowing the monkeys greater versatility when climbing and allowing them greater safety in the occasional fall from a high branch. A quick glimpse and they disappeared.
What a day it had been – a perfect icing for our last boat Safari in the Pantanal. We celebrated the day with a round of cool Caipirinha — a Brazilian cocktail made with fresh lime and a sugarcane-based liquor called cachaca.
More flavours of this day –
My eagerness of what lay beyond the lodge in the wilderness was quenched the next day when me, Amoli and Lena took a walk to the edge of the lodge grounds and walked into the forest for almost an hour – stunning dense forest. There was a watch tower 7 floors high here which gives a stunning view over the forests and also get to see the Howler monkeys if you are lucky.
View our Pantanal Journey Video here –
Read more about our Pantanal wildness exploration– Click here.
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